Monday, June 23, 2008

A Virtual Experience of China

Mike Wendland reports for the Detroit Free Press on a new interactive game that teaches students of all ages Chinese language and culture. Zon/New Chengo teaches through fun, interactive activities and can be used alone or in a classroom setting.

Yong Zhao, a distinguished professor of educational psychology and technology at Michigan State University, is also a respected researcher in Chinese education. He is originally from a poor area in the Sichuan Province. Zhao started working on the game in 2001, intending it to be "fun and educational" and to give players "a vicarious, virtual experience of China."

Zon/New Chengo is a multiplayer role-playing game that gets players to move up through Chinese society from "tourist" to "citizen." At each stage of the play, quests and challenges are encountered. Players also have access to educational material, including tutors in Chinese, and can create and join in social activities. The game is Web-based so nothing needs to be downloaded. It is free for now but in the future, Zhao plans for there to be a small monthly fee.

Zhao hopes to create future editions aimed at specific audiences or groups, like business people, students at varying levels, travelers, and more. To play Zon/New Chengo, go to the game website and register. Once you enter your information and create an avatar, your avatar will appear in the Beijing airport and your first quest will begin. This is a great game for students interested in Chinese language and culture, especially after the dreadful earthquakes in Sichuan and before the coming Beijing Olympics.

SOURCE: "MSU professor creates online game to teach Chinese culture, language" 06/16/08
photo courtesy of McPig, used under this Creative Commons license

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